Canton Atbp: Two Faces of Filipino Society Portrayed Through Dance

It is never easy to stop thinking after watching a performance of Daloy Dance Company. It is always amazing how its members are able to communicate message and trigger thoughts even in the absence of words. Even the way they put things together is admirable. 

It was the same of realization I had after seeing “Canton Atbp.” at Tanghalang Batutue at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Like “Reconfigure,” it was part of this year’s Fringe Manila Arts Festival. The twin bill production consisted of “Canton” and “Himalaya.”

In “Canton,” things are dark. Dancers clad in dirty and ragged clothes portray sex workers and their patrons. There is emphasis on how desperate and oppressed these workers are. Even what they go through as they wait for their next customers tells a lot about the complexity of their situation and emotions.

In every movement, I could see how these sex workers try to resist and somehow do something about the situation. However, they can’t do anything due to their need to survive. There is tension in every movement, making the show effective in retelling the stories of those who have been marginalized.

“Himalaya,” on the other hand, is the perfect contrast of “Canton.” While “Canton” is dark and gritty, “Himalaya” is colorful and festive. A group of dancers wearing white flowy costumes danced to the ethereal music of Makiling Ensemble.

“Himalaya” portrays a society that exists and thrives in “Bayanihan,” or helpfulness.  The graceful movements of the dancers during their solo and group sequences exude an aura of positivity, unity, and sheer joy that the audience cannot help but to smile and clap along to the beat in unison.

Perhaps, it is interesting to ask: Why put two contrasting productions together?

Whatever the answers may be, what is more important is the fact that “Canton Atbp.” succeeds in reminding us, Filipinos, about the society we are part of. While there are many facets of modern Filipino life that tend to drag us down, our basic characteristics as jolly and helpful people can get us through the trials our country constantly have to endure.

Once again, Daloy Dance Company leaves me full of insights. Once again, they have proven that actions, indeed, are louder than words. It is amusing how, through bodily movements and the use of physical space, Canton Atbp. is able to fuel ideas about the current societal conditions of our country we only usually forget about.

(Photos for “Canton” courtesy of Daloy Dance Company)

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